FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday announced the relaunch of the Kentucky Academy for Equity in Teaching, a statewide initiative to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce of teachers.
The academy will focus on three areas: to inspire, prepare and educate the future and current teacher workforce. The initiative aims to provide grants, mentoring, coaching and training, as well as support for recruitment while working to expand pathways to educator certification.
"Educators are given the wonderful responsibility of helping shape the future of the commonwealth by serving our children," Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass said. “But we have too few people wanting to become teachers and too many teachers leaving the field shortly after they start.
Glass added that the state has too few people of color, too few men, and too few people from lower-income backgrounds currently teaching in Kentucky.
"It's important for our students to see people who look like them at the front of a class, whether we are talking about race, ethnicity, economic background, disability or gender," he said.
Almost 61% of Kentucky’s student population last school year was considered economically disadvantaged, according to a realease issued by the Kentucky Department of Education. According to KDE statistics, during the 2019-20 school year, about 25% of students identified as a race other than white, while only about 5% of teachers identified as non-white.
"Research has shown that when students see a teacher who looks like them or shares their background, they do better in the classroom," said Thomas Woods-Tucker, Kentucky’s deputy commissioner of education and KDE’s first chief equity officer.
KDE said diversity in teachers can lead to increased student achievement, lower dropout rates and other positive outcomes, including increased aspirations to attend a postsecondary institution.
"Every student in the commonwealth deserves equitable access to excellent educators who have unique experiences and perspectives and are committed to their success," said Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman. "Kentucky's education leaders, and we as educators, have a shared responsibility in ensuring that this becomes a reality. Together, with deliberate action and shared commitment, we can deliver on that promise."
Aaron Thompson, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, said that to accomplish this, removing barriers to recruitment and creating opportunities for successful completion of college educator preparation programs is vital.
"Equity in our teacher workforce is one of the most important ways we can demonstrate our values to the next generation," Thompson said. "It helps expose students to a rich and diverse learning environment and allows every student to perceive their stake in our educational system. The effect is clear: Greater equity in our teacher preparation programs sets the stage for greater college attainment among all of our students."
The academy is a partnership between the Kentucky Department of Education, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.